To find out more about the 2019 National Whale & Dolphin Watch: Click here
What is NWDW about?
Research has shown that there is little awareness in the UK of the tremendous diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises to be found around our shores. The aim of this event is to give a general “snapshot” of what is in UK coastal waters over a short period of time. As well as gaining valuable research data, we hope this will draw attention to the conservation of our marine environment.
What species are people likely to see?
A staggering 29 species of whale and dolphin have been recorded in our waters, more than a quarter of the entire British mammal fauna. It is possible to see a whale in various parts of Britain and, in a number of localities, there are resident populations of a range of dolphin species. The most commonly reported species are bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise and minke whale, depending on where you are in the British Isles.
How many sightings do you expect during the week?
This will depend on weather conditions and varies from year to year. In the first year of NWDW (2002) 380 sightings were received and a total of 1695 whales and dolphins were seen. Last year (2019), we had 2,130 sightings and a total of 11,864 animals, reflecting just how much the event has grown. On average, across sites, people had a sighting every hour
Who can help?
Anyone who wants to and who is in the UK during the event. So, whether you are planning a trip to the coast, travelling on a ferry in UK waters, sailing for fun, or just near the coast – you will have the perfect opportunity to take part. Your input will help give us a “snapshot” view of the status and distribution of the many cetaceans in our coastal waters.
Threats to whales and dolphins have never been so great, and yet for several species we lack anything but a rudimentary knowledge of their status and distribution. The more coastal species like harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin are specially exposed to the detrimental effects of human activities, and both have undergone significant declines in the past decades.
How can people get involved?
People with experience of “official watches” who can quite readily identify species just need some sightings forms, a pen and a pair of binoculars.
“First timers” or people who need a bit of help in identifying a whale, dolphin or porpoise can also head for a manned site. Sites will be manned by experienced Sea Watch observers, but please note that sites may be manned at different times of day so please contact the local coordinator first to register your interest and to find out more.
How do people identify species?
There are photos on the website, coordinators at manned sites can also help, alternatively there is a training course run by SWF every year.
Click here to find out more about how to identify animals in the wild
What about the boat trips?
Wildlife tour operators all over the UK are taking part in the weekend. Please note that spaces on most boat trips need to be reserved first. Prices vary for these trips and you should contact the relevant operator directly. All marine wildlife operators abide by a voluntary code of conduct.
Is it hard to record data?
Different sightings forms are available depending on whether or not you are a beginner and where you are watching from.
Click here to find out more about the sightings forms and how to record data
What are the chances of seeing something?
Most sightings are usually made in the west, particularly in Cardigan Bay, the north of Scotland, Devon and Cornwall, also the Channel Islands. However, some species may be seen in the North Sea and off the Kent and Sussex coasts on occasions.